23 June 2021

Water Security as Part of Non-Traditional Security: Threat - Implications for India

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Like oil or data, water is an integral part of the world’s economy. Although about 71 per cent of the earth’s surface is water-covered, the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water which is salt water. Freshwater, most of it is frozen in glaciers, accounts for the rest. That leaves less than 1 per cent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. We withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of freshwater every year from the earth’s water basins. We use it in agriculture, which accounts for 70 per cent of the withdrawals. Industry and households consume 19 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. However, these percentages fluctuate widely across the globe. In the United States, industrial and agricultural usage is almost the same around 40 per cent. In India, agriculture uses 90 per cent of water withdrawals, while only 2 per cent is consumed by industry. Over the past century, rate of withdrawal of available freshwater resources have risen almost six times, outpacing global population growth.

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

India’s Tech Talent Flows: A Win-Win for India-US AI Partnership

Husanjot Chahal

The Biden administration’s newly established National Artificial Intelligence Initiative office prioritizes working with U.S. allies and partners as part of its agenda, reflecting a broader understanding that allies are essential to U.S. ambitions in artificial intelligence (AI). India is a key strategic partner for the United States, rooted in democratic values, committed to responsible development and use of emerging technologies, and a nation with considerable potential in AI. Indeed, the United States and India already cooperate on AI research and development through platforms like the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) that recently launched a U.S.-India Artificial Intelligence (USIAI) Partnership.

That said, India’s tech talent diaspora is perhaps one of the most critical and currently underrecognized resources for a mutually beneficial partnership on AI between the two countries. Indian talent moving to the United States is uniquely a win-win for both countries and can play a crucial role in advancing both India’s and the United States’ AI ambitions.

Taliban Enter Key Cities in Afghanistan’s North After Swift Offensive

Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Najim Rahim

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban entered two provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan Sunday, local officials said, the culmination of an insurgent offensive that has overrun dozens of rural districts and forced the surrender and capture of hundreds of government forces and their military equipment in recent weeks.

In Kunduz city, the capital of the province of the same name, the Taliban seized the city’s entrance before dispersing throughout its neighborhoods. Kunduz was briefly taken by the Taliban in 2015 and 2016 before they were pushed back by American airstrikes, special operations forces and Afghan security forces.

“Right now, I hear the sound of bullets,” said Amruddin Wali, a member of Kunduz’s provincial council. “The Taliban have appeared in the alleys and back alleys of Kunduz, and there is panic all over the city.”

Did Joe Biden Get Played By Erdogan On Afghanistan?

Michael Rubin

Bilateral relations between the United States and Turkey have never been so bad for so long. While diplomats and some analysts in Washington self-flagellate and blame the United States for the sustained break in relations, the reality is that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan orchestrated the break for tactical and domestic political reasons.

Both the White House and Turkish officials sought to spin the meeting between President Biden and Erdogan positively. “Thank goodness” the Armenian Genocide did not come up, Erdogan said at a press conference after the one-on-one meeting. While Erdogan hoped for a fresh start and a rollback of sanctions on Turkey imposed because of its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, there did not appear to be any breakthrough on the issue.

Much of the discussion instead appeared to focus on Turkey’s role in Afghanistan, especially after the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the country ordered by Biden. In a subsequent press call, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan indicated the two leaders discussed a quid pro quo. “ President Erdoğan indicated he would need…certain forms of support to do that,” Sullivan reported, ”And President Biden committed that that support would be forthcoming.”

Afghanistan after American withdrawal: Part 2 — Four scenarios

Vanda Felbab-Brown

What are the possible developments in Afghanistan over the next three to five years, after the withdrawal of U.S. forces? In this second piece in a three-part blog series, I detail four possible scenarios, ranging from preservation of the existing political system to a prolonged civil war. In the first piece, I detailed four internal factors that influence the likelihood of each scenario. In the third piece, I analyze where external actors retain leverage.


Under this scenario, the existing political and social dispensations in Afghanistan would be maintained, with minimal changes to the constitution and the preservation of existing formal civil liberties and human rights, including the rights of women and minorities. Elections would continue, albeit fraudulent and underpinned by elite bargains, as over the past two decades. The Taliban would be given the opportunity to disarm and provided with demobilization and reintegration assistance, with only some Taliban fighters provided opportunities to join the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Some Taliban leaders would also be given positions of power in a few Afghan ministries at the national level, with perhaps more robust representation at the provincial level.

Deciphering the Belt and Road Initiative

Jon (Yuan) Jiang

China-BRI-related topics have become some of the most debated academic issues. However, only a few essays and scholarly articles have focused on the BRI narrative in the Chinese media. Both by using critical discourse analysis and comparing reporting of the China Daily on the BRI with western media, Xiao, Li and Hu conclude that the newspaper portrays the BRI as economic opportunities to the world, and Zhang and Wu argue that the China Daily perceives China as “a peace-loving country, an international co-operator and a great global responsible power”. By comparison, Swaine argues that Chinese media describes the BRI to be a near-altruistic, economic-centered and mutually beneficial network without discussing China’s own domestic and external goals related to the BRI. Also, Chinese media firmly denies any condemnations that BRI will be used to threaten any other member countries.

Furthermore, a considerable amount of literature has been published on the Chinese media’s functions. Chinese and non-Chinese scholars both have realized the importance of the media and reached a consensus that the media of China as an instrument of public diplomacy narratives are still relatively less influential, compared to the Western powers, although China has been dedicated to enhancing it for many years. Cheng, García-Herrero, Xu and Ramo argue that the media play a leading role in shaping the image of China and the BRI, public opinion and decision-making of other countries. Furthermore, they argue that if the image of China and the BRI is commensurate with the perception of local countries or not determines the future of the BRI. Hu Xijin, the Chief Editor of Global Times, Chinese state-owned media, regarded as the center of China’s propaganda machine by Western media, claims that “China’s ability to explain itself to the world is inadequate”.

The Soviet Origins of Xi’s Xinjiang Policy

Christopher Vassallo

Xi Jinping’s campaign of repression in Xinjiang is tinged with an urgency that only historical parallel can provide. The Soviet Union’s collapse haunts his brutal crackdown there. Xi and his advisors have long identified ethnic unrest and separatist forces at the fringes of Soviet empire as one impetus for the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Xi’s eyes, before his extreme intervention, similarities between Chinese and Soviet ethnic policy risked a disastrous splintering of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authority in the region.

Ever since the Soviet Union unceremoniously imploded and dissolved, China’s leaders have parsed the collapse for lessons to inform strategy and mistakes to avoid repeating. Over the course of a year of research, I have examined the powerful sway the Soviet analogy has had on Chinese leaders in the 30 years since. Tracking the Chinese Communist Party’s understanding of the lessons of this collapse has revealed the preoccupations of CCP leadership in crucial periods of crisis and change.

Israeli Defense Minister Orders Forces Ready For Iran Ops


TEL AVIV: The election of Iran’s new hardline president, coupled with Washington’s eagerness to sign a new nuclear deal, have led Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to order some units to accelerate preparations for an armed conflict with Iran, sources in the Defense Minister’s office say.

One of the factors that appears to be behind these moves is that after President Ibrahim Raisi takes office on Aug. 3 he will form a new national security board expected to fully obey his orders, Uzi Rabi, a senior expert here on Iran, told BD.

Raisi held his first official press conference since his election during which he stressed that Iran’s foreign relations would not depend on decisions made under the nuclear deal.

Last week the only nuclear power plant in Iran was shut down. Iranian authorities said technical problems forced the operations to be halted in Bushher. The power plant supplies electricity to some of Iran’s critical sites.

Operation Guardian of the Walls: Moving the Conflict from the Periphery to Jerusalem and the Heart of the Country?

Menachem Klein, Yohanan Tzoreff

Operation Guardian of the Walls, or by its Palestinian name, Sword of Jerusalem, reflected the maturation of processes that began at the end of the 20th century and were followed by developments that originated after 2000 in the second Intifada. Now, the Jewish and Arab populations living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea find themselves in a new reality, where the focus of the Israel-Palestinian conflict has shifted from the periphery, including the Gaza Strip, to Jerusalem and the heart of the country. Therefore, if the political process resumes, discussions will not center on the transition from the military government to a political border, but from a situation of one regime to a situation of two states; dismantlement of Israeli control must precede any debate on the location and nature of the border. The distinction between narrative issues that are hard to resolve (refugees and Jerusalem) and relatively easier issues of a more technical nature (Palestinian sovereignty and the settlements) is no longer valid. All are now material issues, and both sides must prepare for a new trade-off in talks. Moreover, the difficulty of formulating a settlement is greater today than in the 1990s, within each of the parties no less than between them. Consequently, before starting talks, each side must reach an internal consensus on the rules governing a decision.

A Sultan in AutumnErdogan Faces Turkey's Uncontainable Forces

Soner Cagaptay

The unprecedented economic growth and personal popularity once enjoyed by the Turkish leader have given way to stagnation, a dwindling support base, and problems abroad.

During his first decade in power, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintained his popularity by delivering unprecedented economic growth and dramatically increasing access to healthcare, education, and other essential services. But in recent years, he and his party have faced setbacks, including humiliating mayoral election losses in Istanbul, Ankara, and other major cities in 2019. At home, the once robust Turkish economy has sputtered, while abroad Erdogan must balance a perilous alliance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin against the need to maintain amicable relations with Washington. A potential refugee crisis from Syria looms as another threat. And on the political front, Erdogan can no longer count on majority support from Turkish voters, a trend driven by disillusionment among millennials, his own clumsy anti-elitist messaging, and establishment fatigue, among other factors.

U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden

President Joe Biden took office with an ambitious foreign policy agenda summed up by his favorite campaign tagline: “America is back.” Above all, that will mean repairing the damage done to America’s global standing by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. During his four years in office, Trump strained ties with America’s allies in Europe and Asia, raised tensions with adversaries like Iran and Venezuela, and engaged in a trade war with China that left bilateral relations in their worst state in decades.

Biden’s agenda is rooted in a repudiation of Trump’s “America First” legacy and the restoration of the multilateral order, reflected in his early moves to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization. The COVID-19 pandemic offers Biden a unique opportunity to reassert America’s global leadership role and begin repairing ties that began to fray under Trump. He is also attempting to sell greater international engagement to Americans with his vision of a “foreign policy for the middle class,” which ties U.S. diplomacy to peace, security and prosperity at home.

Cyber Risk Across the U.S. Nuclear Enterprise

Herbert Lin

Over the past year, a number of seriously consequential cyber attacks against the United States have come to light. These include the SolarWinds breach,1 ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline2 and the JBS meat processing company,3 and a compromise of the email systems of the U.S. Agency for International Development.4 U.S. officials have indicated their belief that Russia either sponsored these attacks or at least tolerated the activities of the Russia-based hacker groups responsible for them.

That such attacks have happened at all raises important and disturbing questions about risks to the increasing U.S. dependency on information technology, including that of nearly every aspect of America’s nuclear force management, from stockpile management to launch. These risks suggest that American nuclear forces may be far more vulnerable to cyber disruption, destruction, and corruption than policymakers realize.

Many of the existing components of the U.S. nuclear enterprise — that is, the entire array of activities and operations that have some significant connection to any aspect of nuclear explosive devices (usually known as nuclear weapons), whether in production, acquisition, operations, organization, or strategy — were developed before the Internet of Things, the World Wide Web, and mobile computing and smart cell phones became ubiquitous throughout society. Today, the United States is embarking on an effort to modernize many elements of its nuclear enterprise,5 and, unlike in the past, cyber issues will be an increasingly important aspect of that effort. How, if at all, could dependencies on modern information technologies lead to cyber-induced failures of nuclear deterrence or result in a nuclear war? This is the question that motivates this essay.

Stop Relying on China. We Need to Start Manufacturing PPE Here in the U.S. | Opinion


The U.S. public health system is part of our country's center of gravity: a critical sustaining element of our society and a comparative advantage that sets us apart from—and supports—other parts of the world. But our system is not without its challenges. We witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic how a vulnerable healthcare system exposes our communities to a cascading set of problems, highlighting just how important it is to strengthen our public health infrastructure.

Over the last year, our healthcare workers and first responders struggled against equipment shortages. At the same time, the American workforce experienced a screeching halt to the economy. While the private sector stepped in to fill the gaps they could, the lack of both consumable and durable personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers was a glaring hole and revealed a critical vulnerability to our healthcare center of gravity.

America possesses the resources to produce and distribute critical medical equipment in times of crisis, so why couldn't we?

US Civil-Military Relations Are Complicated, But Not Broken


A recent article in Foreign Affairs carried this shocking title: “Crisis of Command: America’s Broken Civil-Military Relationship Imperils National Security.” The piece explored the relationship between the American people and its military on many levels, citing serious problems in every area. Without “robust civilian oversight of the military,” the piece concluded, democracy and the U.S. status as a world power will be in peril. Its authors, Risa Brooks, Jim Golby, and Heidi Urben, are among the best and most prolific authors on the subject. Their thoughtful effort deserves a critical look.

Crises come in many forms, but like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuban missile crisis, or the Iran-hostage saga, we generally know one when we see one. There is no crisis of command, though the civil-military relationship, fraught with friction, is often stressed. And through the sturm und drang, it is possible to see four core truths.

US has something to learn from China about securing rare earths

David Uren

The Biden administration’s 100-day review of supply-chain vulnerabilities has produced fresh insights into the United States’ dependence on China for supplies of rare earths and other critical materials but falls far short of a strategy to achieve any change.

The review, led by the Department of Defense, expresses confidence that military needs for critical minerals could be met in a crisis by diverting supplies from civilian use, but says this would result in ‘very large essential civilian shortfalls’ that would be more than 10 times the peacetime needs of defence.

‘Even though the US Armed Forces have vital requirements for strategic and critical materials, the essential civilian sector would likely bear the preponderance of harm from a disruption event,’ the report says.

Bidenomics Is ‘America First’ With a Brain

Edward Alden

If former U.S. President Donald Trump had not been so incapable of governing, and felt so threatened by his own civil servants, his administration might have done what his successor, President Joe Biden, did last week: Create a blueprint for an “America first” economic policy that consigns decades of liberal internationalism to the ash heap of history.

With a 250-page White House report on “supply chain resilience,” and the U.S. Senate’s approval of a $250-billion bill to compete with a rising China, the administration is trying to launch the United States on a new path toward rebuilding economic self-sufficiency, jump-starting innovation, and spreading economic benefits more broadly among Americans. Trump promised in his first speech as president to “remove the rust from the rust belt and usher in a new industrial revolution,” and then accomplished nothing of the sort. Biden may usher in that revolution.

By Sling and by Stone: A Strategy of Technological Reduction

Eviatar Matania, Erez Seri-Levy

In recent decades, scholars have commonly thought of military superiority as contingent on advanced military technology. So did national security establishments, which dedicated an increasing share of military buildup efforts to the development and acquisition of advanced systems. As such, what options are available to the side that suffers from inherent technological inferiority? This article introduces, discusses, and demonstrates a strategy of technological reduction for military force buildup strategy, which calls for the deliberate development of weapons that are simple, compared to the prevailing technology. This strategy has been adopted in several cases in recent years, and seems most popular among those suffering from technological inferiority compared to their rivals. Armed non-state actors and militaries opt to abandon the hopeless technological race and turn to a cunning force buildup; in the same way a force in a state of operational inferiority seeks cunning doctrines, such as guerrilla warfare, for contending with a much stronger rival.


Three fundamental components underlie the measurement of military power: quantity, meaning the number of soldiers and weapons at the disposal of the military; quality, that is, the professional level of the soldiers and the technological level of the weapons; and the operational component, which is also known as “conversion capability,”(1) meaning the ability to plan and carry out a military action with the help of complementary components such as command and control (C&C), logistics, intelligence, and information and communications technology (ICT). Military power can be measured on a certain dimension of warfare (land, sea, air, space, or cyber) or in absolute terms, regarding superiority in all dimensions of warfare, i.e., full-spectrum superiority (JCoS, 2020, p. 90).

To stop the ransomware pandemic, start with the basics

Twenty years ago, it might have been the plot of a trashy airport thriller. These days, it is routine. On May 7th cyber-criminals shut down the pipeline supplying almost half the oil to America’s east coast for five days. To get it flowing again, they demanded a $4.3m ransom from Colonial Pipeline Company, the owner. Days later, a similar “ransomware” assault crippled most hospitals in Ireland.

Such attacks are evidence of an epoch of intensifying cyber-insecurity that will impinge on everyone, from tech firms to schools and armies. One threat is catastrophe: think of an air-traffic-control system or a nuclear-power plant failing. But another is harder to spot, as cybercrime impedes the digitisation of many industries, hampering a revolution that promises to raise living standards around the world.

The secret to NATO’s survival: Get political

Jamie Shea and Michael John Williams

NATO is a political-military alliance, but the political element has been lost in recent years, frustrating those such as the NATO 2030 Reflection Group who argue that the Alliance should be the premier forum for transatlantic policy coordination and crisis management. The Biden administration has a unique opportunity to reset NATO and take up the Reflection Group’s recommendations.

Why has NATO failed to be an effective political forum and what signs need to emerge from this week’s summit that NATO is making progress toward political effectiveness? There are six core areas to watch over the next eighteen months.

1. A coherent political-military strategy toward China

China presents the most pressing threat to the international system as we know it. With 1.3 billion people and an economy of nearly $16 trillion, China is a juggernaut that does not accept settled international norms (and laws) such as freedom of the seas and has very different ideas about human rights. The scale and scope of Chinese ambition, coupled with the reality that China is a major trading partner for many allies, complicates matters. Europe, for its part, has prevaricated on the matter but is finally starting to see the nature of the Chinese challenge. Coming out of the summit, where NATO for the first time took on the “challenge” of China in its communiqué, the Alliance must balance Russia—which remains a threat—with a new focus on Asia aimed at building modernized Indo-Pacific partnerships. China should be top of mind throughout all Alliance structures and a regular discussion point in all high-level meetings. The goal is a comprehensive political strategy that accounts for China being the world’s dominant economic power within a decade.

Regulating Irregular Actors

Erica Gaston

In the last two decades, the US and other Western states have frequently found themselves working in cooperation with non-state or sub-state forces – including militias or paramilitary groups, tribal and community forces, as well as rebels and opposition actors. While these forces may be quick and easy to mobilize, they often come with substantial risks or drawbacks. Many of these groups have a reputation for human rights violations, are linked to warlords or criminal groups, or have affiliations with insurgent or terrorist organizations.

What legal obligations – if any – do Western states have to ensure that the non-state or sub-state forces with whom they work comply with international law or their own domestic standards? Can certain checks reduce the security risk posed by supported forces, or prevent them from imperiling policy goals in peacekeeping and stabilization missions? What sort of due diligence measures are needed to meet public expectations for accountability over public funds, particularly where lethal assistance and use of force are an issue?

To explore these questions, this report examines seven US support initiatives for non-state and sub-state forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria between 2006 and 2019. Our research investigates whether such due diligence measures are effective, and at what costs, for the both the initiatives in question and for the larger decision-making surrounding these partnerships.

Download the full report.

The SolarWinds Attack and Its Lessons

Chi Tran

In the late 2020 and early 2021, while strained by the Covid-19 pandemic and preparing for the transfer of power following the presidential election, the United States admitted that it suffered the biggest cyber-attack ever in terms of sophistication and extent of impact. The attack was conducted through SolarWinds, a large and reputable US cybersecurity company headquartered in Texas.[1] SolarWinds network and security products, as of the time of the attack, were used by more than 300,000 major customers worldwide, including various Fortune 500 companies, major telecom companies, military and government organizations such as the Pentagon, the United States Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Security Agency (NSA), State Department, Justice Department, and even the Executive Office of the President.[2] SolarWinds has made a statement that up to 18,000 out of more than 300,000 of their customers were infected with malicious code.[3] The attack was carried out in a very methodical manner with the participation of more than 1000 professional engineers believed to be sponsored by Russia.[4] Aiming at a very normal activity of service users, which is software updates, hackers began to try to insert malicious code into the SolarWinds Orion Platform software update from the end of 2019.[5] However, it was not until February 2020 that the intrusion and distribution of malicious code began to be carried out. The attack was completely undetected until December 13, 2020, by FireEye – a direct victim of the cyberattack.[6]

Known Unknowns

Arthur Holland

In order to perform as desired, autonomous systems must collect data that are complete, relevant, accurate, and aligned with the data for which the system was developed and tested. But the harsh, dynamic, complex and adversarial nature of conflict environments poses a wide range of obstacles to the collection of such data. As a result, autonomous systems cannot always be expected to achieve the exact same performance in real-world use that they demonstrated in development or testing. And crucially, they will be liable to failures that are both inevitable and impossible to anticipate: “known unknowns.”

Data and its vagaries therefore have significant implications for the application of international humanitarian law and other rules of war. This report describes common data issues for autonomous systems and explains how they give rise to "known unknown" failures. It then explores the legal and operational implications of such failures, and considers a range of potential policy and technical solutions by which they could be addressed.


Bill Bray

In testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on June 15, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday was grilled about his reading list. Watching the Navy’s top admiral defending some of the books on his reading list, particularly Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist, while the Congress struggles to fund the Navy the nation needs, was a spectacle to say the least and not the funny kind. But it did raise questions in my mind: who needs or cares for a reading list? And how does becoming a deep reader make for becoming a better military leader?

Reading Lists and Subjective Reads

There have been many reading lists for military leaders. To me, they always radiated a whiff of the haughty, didactic proclamation, even though I trust that was never the intent. To be a good leader, thou shalt read these 20 books. Many books on these lists are worth reading, for sure. A few are terrible, especially the ghost-written leadership pablum by former CEOs, a few who a decade or so later wind up embroiled in scandal or even in prison. But when I was a young officer and finally out of school, I found immense pleasure finding my way to books for just about any reason except being told to read them. Natural curiosity leads to discovery, and even more curiosity. Something catches our interest, something we see or hear or read, and it points us to a book. We cultivate a taste for good books. We read about the authors and how the books were conceived. This suggests other books we feel we must read. And so forth.

The Case for Campaign Analysis: A Method for Studying Military Operations

Rachel Tecott, Andrew Halterman

Despite extensive use by security studies scholars, the campaign analysis method has not been formally defined or standardized. Campaign analysis is a method involving the use of a model and techniques for managing uncertainty to answer questions about military operations, and consists of six steps: question selection, scenario development, model construction, value assignment, sensitivity analysis, and presentation of results. The models that scholars develop to direct analysis are significant intellectual contributions and can be adapted by other scholars and practitioners to guide additional analyses.